Brick-and-mortar retailers better be prepared for lots of teen foot traffic over the next few weeks as, according to new research from retail advisory firm HRC Retail Advisory (HRC), a majority of Generation Z consumers (54 percent) will be shopping for back-to-school items exclusively in-store this season.
Further, retailers should be ready for this increased traffic earlier than ever, with a quarter of Generation Z consumers already starting to shop for back-to-school, and nearly all are actively seeking deals or discounts online prior to actually going out to make the purchase.
“As Generation Z heads into stores earlier, brick-and-mortar retailers need to be prepared, particularly as this group continues to show distinct preferences, habits and influence over household purchases,” said Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory, in a news release. “Mass merchant stores like Walmart, for example, will likely see increased traffic from these price-conscious consumers who will be actively seeking deals on their must-have back-to-school items including sneakers, athletic wear and the latest technology.”
To better understand the back-to-school shopping habits of Generation Z and their impact on retailers, HRC recently surveyed 676 participants in North America on their attitudes, behaviors and influences driving their purchases this season. Key findings of the survey include:
Gen Z prefers shopping in-store for back to school
The majority of Generation Z respondents prefer to shop exclusively in-store across all categories, but have the highest in-store shopping rates when purchasing School Supplies (71 percent) and Beauty & Personal Grooming (62 percent). While 30 percent of respondents leverage both in-store and online shopping, online retailers are more relevant to boys than to girls. Nine percent of boys report they’ll shop exclusively online for back-to-school versus just 4 percent of girls, which highlights the need for retailers to market to these groups differently and distinctly.
Boys will start shopping earlier than girls
While 25 percent of all respondents say they will shop earlier this year compared to last year, boys are almost twice as likely to shop early, particularly those in the 10-13 age group. Geography impacts when kids shop as well, with 37 percent of kids in the South—where the school year starts earlier—to begin shopping in July. However, even in the Northeast—where school typically begins after Labor Day—20 percent of kids will also begin their shopping in July to capture early deals.
Price matters, even to kids
More than 90 percent of respondents indicated that discounts are at least somewhat important, while more than a third (37 percent) say they’re extremely important when shopping back-to-school. Boys place more importance on discounts when buying Athletic Shoes & Sneakers, Sports & Athletic Clothing and Technology. Girls place more importance on discounts in School Supplies, Beauty & Personal Grooming, Shoes and Decorative Items.
Gen Z favors mass merchants
Thirty-six percent of boys and girls cite Walmart as their first choice for back-to-school shopping, more than double that of any other retailer. Target ranked second (14 percent), especially among girls, followed by Amazon (12 percent), led by boys. Department stores and specialty stores didn’t make the list, when ranking the top back-to-school shopping destinations.
Parents and friends are primary influencers for back to school
Parents have the strongest influence when purchasing School Supplies, Technology and Beauty & Personal Grooming. Yet friends’ influence is approaching or outpacing that of parents in most other back-to-school categories. For boys, friends’ opinions matter most when choosing Athletic Clothing (35 percent) and Athletic Shoes (31 percent). For girls, friends’ opinions of Accessories (36 percent) and Decorative Items (31 percent) matter most—further highlighting the need for marketing with distinction.
HRC Retail Advisory’s survey findings are based on a targeted sample of Generation Z (children ages 10-17). Respondents were asked about their attitudes and behaviors as it relates to back-to-school shopping. The survey was fielded from July 10 – 12, 2017, and was completed through proprietary sample sources amongst panelists who participate in online surveys. The total sample size was 676 Generation Z consumers.